I was rummaging around in our storage loft last week in search of a pair gardening gloves, and I came upon the trappings of hours of lost activity, the vestiges of countless hours spent, now relegated to the attic, distractions stowed since opening the shop, parts of me that I’d nearly forgotten. There are the many books, the pool cue, cello music, bicycle lights and clothing iron. Oh, iron, my old and neglected friend; how long it has been since I took you for a spin?
Tools of the trade, of course, vary with the trade, and some are more obvious to the outsider. Generally speaking, restaurant service requires a pen and pad, and a wine opener. Along with some degree of charm and attention to detail, add the uniform – apron, pressed shirt, pants, belt, socks, and black shoes - and you’re ready to roll. My first three restaurant jobs were in a beach town and called for khaki shorts and polo shirts, but when I came west to seek my fortune in Berkeley, and landed a bussing job at Chez Panisse, the shirt pressing began in earnest. For the next two decades, I was never far from an electric steam iron and a can of spray starch.
The power that be (there has never been more than one) understood that her bussers had neither the money to dry clean, nor the skills to make one presentable, so she enlisted the help of her dear friend, and tea consultant, Helen Gustafson, to educate the incoming class in the art of the iron. Helen gave very particular tea steeping classes, involving a thermometer, as well as detailed instruction for correctly pressing a long sleeved button-down shirt, and while my knowledge of tea service faded with time, this latter lesson proved surprisingly useful.
I can’t say I miss the daily ironing, but I did enjoy the neatening satisfaction, like the joy of mowing lawn, making something disheveled look snappy with a little heat and water. The shirt being the most difficult to prepare – and most visible - part of the uniform, made it a long time source of stress for me. Did I forget to iron? Did I forget my shirt altogether? Is it too dirty? Only in recent years have I gone unvisited by my most common anxiety dream: I am a waiter without the correct shirt. In this dream, I am late to the floor, having been sat several tables already in a sprawling, untenable section, and I can’t find my pressed white shirt. It is pure panic. I am looking forward to getting back to some of the activities I’ve stashed in the loft, but the nightmare of no shirt, I’ll happily leave behind.
Come taste with us this week at OAKLAND YARD – no dress code here, thought shirt and shoes are required, and maybe galoshes the way things are looking right now.
TONIGHT: Thursday Night Flights! GERMAN WINES, REDS or WHITES: Gutedel, Riesling, Dornfelder, Trollinger & Lemberger - $12 tasting flights from 4 to 8pm.
SATURDAY 1/19: EASTERN EUROPEAN tasting flights - Reds and whites from Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary and Georgia - $15 tasting -Flights from 2 to 6pm and wines by the glass until 9pm.
SUNDAY 1/20: PORTUGEUSE TASTING FLIGHTS - Red, White & Bubbly - $15 tasting - Flights from 2 to 6 - and wines by the glass until 8pm.